ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Schempf’s Department Store


George S. Schempf


Schempf Brothers

209-213 East Main Street


Schempf’s Drug Store




In the spring of 1848, there came Dr. Fischer, John C. Halliger, Hohrmann and Ernst Achilles together with families, then the first Baptist Fried. Schielemann with wife, Nottorf, Grossmann and Lorenz Fribert, Wilhelm Wiggenhorn with family, among whom were his sons Constanz, Alexis, Eugen and August; Adolf Beurhaus and Adolph Lange, both married, Henry Maldaner, Fritz Herrmann, Chas. M. Ducasse, Gustav Schnasse, Martin Hopf, George Schempf and family, Schmidt Toelle, Henry and Louis Mulberger, Carl Roedel, Georg Koenig, Louis Stallmann, Leonard Meth with wife and several others.   Bad roads and "Latin" farmers: Watertown in 1848



1902, Building at 209-211 E Main.   Founded by George Schempf. 

Image is prior to 1903 addition of a third floor and later (after 1910, before 1913) expansion into 213 E Main


Schempf Bros. department store was the leading

store in the city from the late 1840s to closing in 1936.


Schempf's "Big Cash Store" was the local Gimbel’s or Chapman's in earlier days.  With three floors of merchandise and a grocery department in its large building (later occupied by Kresge’s), it had a real passenger elevator and an overhead money shuttle service that used to fascinate youngsters.


The store was founded in 1855 by George S. Schempf (married to Wilhelmina "Minna" Koenig ) after his return from the California gold rush.  He brought in his nephews, Leonard and John, as partners, and they were the proprietors of the store in its golden age.  The last of the family to run the store were Max Kusel, who had married Amanda Schempf, and Edward L. Schempf, a gifted singer who often appeared as soloist in choral concerts.  The Schempf store was taken over in 1936.


1854      Transfer of property from George S. to George F.

   Block and lot on which Schempf Building sits.



Store founded by George S. Schempf (married to Wilhelmina "Minna" Koenig) after his return from the California gold rush



   Weltburger Ad, 1892







03 20          SHOES AT SCHEMPFS

Schempf Bros. are arranging for a shoe department on the second floor of their store, the necessary shelving, etc., being now put in.  The stock of L. Schempf at 112 Main Street has become the firm's property and it will shortly be removed to the quarters now in preparation.   WR


10 23          CLEVER PRETENSE

That clever pretense of a big break in the plate glass window at Schempf's Cash Store has deceived many a passerby the past few days.  It is said that upon first noticing it the police made minute inquiries as to when and how the irregularity occurred.   WR






02 12          "Chief" the Shetland Pony

Schempfs' Cash Store has an attraction this week – "Chief," a Shetland pony with a phenomenally long tail, measuring fifteen feet.  The pony is quite a novelty and well worth seeing.  The children are especially interested.   WR


1898      George S. Schempf, Limb Amputated

11 16          An unfortunate accident befell George S. Schempf Saturday afternoon on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, while he was taking his daily stroll.  Mr. Schempf was walking towards the Junction and it seems stepped from the main track on to a side track in order to allow a train to pass.  But in doing so he only placed himself in the way of another train a special freight which was moving along the siding slowly and which he failed to see approaching.  This train struck him and his right leg was caught under the wheels, severing it just above the ankle.  The accident was witnessed by several men in the yards, who hurried to Mr. Schempf’s assistance and carried him to the Junction Hotel.  The flow of blood from the wound was stopped and Drs. Moulding, Whyte and Werner summoned.  As soon as practicable Mr. Schempf was taken to his home at 403 S. Second Street.  He was not unconscious at any time and his system withstood the shock very well.  Late Saturday night the crushed portion of the limb was amputated and the attending physicians look for a speedy healing of the wound and Mr. Schempf's ultimate recovery.  WR


1900      Five Hundred Silk Worms at Schempf’s

06 05          Schempf Brothers will have a most interesting and unique window display this week.  A collection of five hundred silk worms has been secured from Missouri and they will be set to work in a vented enclosure in the east show window.  The insects will first begin to crawl and hunt for a suitable place in which to spin.  Then they will be seen in the act of spinning and subsequently in the process of finishing up their work.  This is the first opportunity most of the people of Watertown and vicinity will have to watch these industrious little animals performing their valuable labors and no doubt great interest will be taken in the attraction.  It will afford a valuable object lesson in the industrial stages of the very important industry of silk manufacture — an industry which has made France famous.   WR



The Watertown School of Music will be under the management of Edward Schempf and Wm. S. Mullen, and will occupy the third floor of the building at 107 and 109 Main St. 



   1901 Fire Insurance Map, 200 block E Main, compared to 1909






On Tuesday evening the Watertown Lodge of Elks gave an informal reception at their new club rooms on Main Street, the affair taking the nature of a house-warming, and was for members of the lodge and their families only.  The rooms were most tastefully decorated for the event.  Luncheon was served at 9:30, followed by dancing, music being furnished by Hardege’s orchestra.  Misses Clara Hoermann and Elsa Schempf presided at the punch bowl.  It was one of the most delightful informal affairs ever given here, and greatly appreciated by those present.  WG



Turner Opera House was well filled with people Thursday evening of last week to witness the entertainment given by the Watertown Dramatic Club, and the Amateur Musical Club, assisted in vocal numbers by Miss Lula Bertram, and Wm. Sproesser. Edw. L. Schempf directed the musical part of the program in his customary efficient manner.  The music furnished was high-class and was most excellently rendered. The singing of Miss Bertram and Mr. Sproesser was very much appreciated, both responding to enthusiastic encores.  Miss Lydia Pease accompanied the former, and the latter was accompanied by his wife.


“Mr. Bob,” presented by the Watertown Dramatic Club is a very funny little comedy and in every detail was perfectly portrayed. Mrs. W. J. Lee as Patty, was very clever indeed, and came in for a good share of the applause of the evening.  John Chapman, as Jenkins, with whom Patty was in love, provided a capital actor; and John W. Schempf, as Phillip Rayson, was placed in so many ludicrous predicaments that he furnished no small amount of the amusement of the evening.  The whole affair was excellently carried out, and about $135 was realized.  WG






1903      Death of George S. Schempf, 1828-1903

02 06       Deceased was a native of Hessen, near Darmstadt, Germany, where he was born May 23, 1828, hence was in his 75th year.  When quite a boy he came to America and located at Cleveland, Ohio; from there he went to Milwaukee, and in 1846 located in this city and engaged in the general merchandise business.  In 1849 he went to California, where he stayed for nearly two years, and again located in Watertown and opened a general store with his brother at the site of where Schempf Bros. Co. now conduct their business, the firm’s name being G. & F. Schempf.


The firm dissolved partnership after a short time, and the former [George] continued in the business until about seventeen years ago, when he retired on a well-earned competency and has since led a retired life.

Cross reference:  Chapter on George Schempf family  


10 30       Cloak, Suit and Fur Dept. will be on New Third Floor

   New Cloak, Suit and Fur Dept. will be located on our New Third Floor as soon as ready – within a few days.  It will be the best lighted and best appointed show room in this part of the state . . . As soon as our new Third Floor is completed, these goods, together with all other Infant’s Goods will be found in the infants department on this floor.


11 13       Grand Opening of Third Floor of Enlarged Schempf Building

The formal opening of Schempf Bros. third floor, the new addition to their large dry goods house, will take place on next Saturday, November 14th.  It will be the beginning of a week’s sale of exceptional values in every department of their business.  An orchestra has been engaged for the occasion, and the store will be beautifully decorated for the occasion, and besides, the display of cloaks, suits, skirts, furs, carpets, rugs, curtains, draperies and fancy art goods will be the finest ever shown here.  Don’t fail to attend this great opening sale.  WG


11 20             Ad of 11 20 1903


11 20       Opening Attracted Thousands

     First Passenger Elevator in Watertown

Last Saturday Schempf Brothers’ Third Floor opening attracted thousands of people. A third story has been added to their business block, and has been recently completed.  This is stocked with a large assortment of cloaks, shirts, waists, furs, carpets, rugs, curtains, draperies and fancy arts goods, and on Saturday the very large crowd that visited the opening were highly pleased with what they saw in the line of elegant goods, and also the arrangement of this large, well-lighted and well-arranged addition to Schempf Bros. Co. business house.  It was beautifully decorated with palms and greenery, and in the evening eight Humphrey four-glow gas lamps illuminated the place to perfection.  The Apollo Orchestra, stationed on the second floor furnished music in the afternoon and evening.  The elevator just placed in the store was a great convenience for the visitors on this day, and nearly every visitor took advantage of it and visited the third floor, it being the first and only passenger elevator in use in Watertown.  Schempf Bros. Co. is to be congratulated on the success of their opening, and the people of Watertown and vicinity have every reason to feel proud of this old and reliable business house.  WG


     Get a Flannelette Night Gown at Schempf’s !



05 13       Electric Cable Cash System

A new electric cable cash system has just been installed in Schempf’s store whereby change can be made from any part of the store to the office and returned.  It is one of the finest cash systems now in use and will greatly facilitate business at this popular establishment.


05 20       Opening of Remodeled Store

(advertisement)  We are glad to announce that the formal opening of our remodeled store will occur Saturday, May 28.  There have been many delays but the store is now entirely completed and is conceded one of the best is this state.  We’re proud of the store – proud of its arrangements – proud of the superb stock of merchandise it contains.  The opening day will be a memorable one – including beautiful decorations and orchestra music both afternoon and evening.  Besides, we will begin on that day a One Week’s Sale which will include every department in the store.  We will offer such unusual bargains that you can’t afford to stay away.  We expect to make our opening sale the most important event in the history of the retail trade in Watertown.  Arrange to come on the opening day if you can.  You’ll find it interesting and profitable.




Last Saturday the formal opening of Schempf Bros. Co.’s, remodeled store took place, at which a one week’s sale was inaugurated.  Throughout the entire day the store was crowded with people, which included very many from the surrounding towns of Jefferson, Dodge, Columbia and Waukesha counties  The people who attended the opening can well repeat the firm’s own words:  “We’re proud of the store — proud of its arrangements — proud of the superb stock of merchandise it contains.”  The entire three floors of this big store were most beautifully decorated with greenery and flowers.  Conspicuous among the decorations were a large cluster of American beauty roses and a large floral horseshoe, an insignia of good luck.  An orchestra in a balcony overlooking the first floor discoursed fine music during the day, which added greatly to the pleasure of the visitors, and the many bargains offered and taken advantage of sent each purchaser away rejoicing.  The sale continues until Saturday evening, and as many as possibly can should take advantage of it. 


Schempf Bros. Co.’s store is now one of the largest and best-arranged in the state, being supplied with a passenger elevator, the latest in cash delivery systems, and every convenience that makes th« store a popular one to visit.  It is well lighted with both natural and artificial light, and the evening display of electric lights in their store and show windows the past week was most beautiful.  Their stock is one of the largest and best in the state, and it includes everything usually found on sale in a department store.  Each department is presided over by experienced accommodating salespeople who delight in waiting on visitors whether they intend purchasing or not.  Visit the store of Schempf Bros. Co.’s this week if you wish to secure unusual bargains.   WG advertisement  






            First floor, 1906


         Second floor


            Third floor  /  There was also a basement level of this store.


   Sale clerks, ladies department, Ella Knaak, John Goodnetter




1906      Edward L. Schempf Stabbed on Leonard Schempf farm in Clyman

08 16          Edward L. Schempf lies suffering at his home at Jones Street, the result of a stabbing affair in the town of Clyman yesterday afternoon in which he received three ugly wounds, the offender being a farm laborer by the name of Fred Mundt.  It appears that trouble had been brewing between Mundt and Schempf, both of whom were working on the Leonard Schempf farm in the town of Clyman, the owner of the place being the step-father of the victim of the stabbing affair.  It is said that the parties had an altercation a couple of weeks ago, but finally became reconciled and shook hands and became friends once more.  Just how the trouble started yesterday, the Leader representative was unable to learn.  It is said that the two men were engaged in harvest work and were standing on a stack of grain, when Mundt suddenly pulled a knife and flew at Schempf in a rage and began cutting him.  The result was that Schempf received a couple of bad gashes in the arm and another bad wound in the chest.  The latter, it is reported, was not far from the heart, a spot the offender no doubt attempted to reach.   Watertown Leader


09 11          John W. Schempf Sells Drug Store

It has been known for several days that there has been a change in the Schempf Drug Company and the Leader has been anxiously awaiting the time when it could impart the information to its readers, but was requested not to do so by Mr. John Schempf and the new purchaser of his interest for certain reasons best known to themselves.


After a business career here for several years, Mr. Schempf has disposed of his interest in the business to Mr. W. G. Atwell, who has already assumed charge of the business.  It is with much regret that Mr. Schempf's many friends learn of his retirement from the business which he began seven years ago with modest beginnings, till he has worked up an enviable reputation and an excellent business - in fact a drug store that is a model of beauty and one that would be a credit to any city much larger than Watertown.  The regrets are more keen when it is known that Mr. Schempf at no great distant date is to engage in business elsewhere.   Watertown Leader


09 14       John W. Schempf has disposed of his interest in the Schempf Drug Co. to W. G. Atwell, of Colby, who has already taken charge of the business.  Mr. Schempf has been closely confined in his business for the past seven years and he found that it is necessary for him to take a vacation for the benefit of his health, and he knew of no better way of doing so than to dispose of his business and be relieved of all cares.  He intends taking a trip to Boston, and Atlanta, Georgia, and other places in the east and south.  He will be absent from the city for about two months, and at the end of that time may decide to engage in business again, but outside this city.  Our people regret his move, so far as it taken him out of the business life of this place, for he was looked up to as one of Watertown's most enterprising and popular young business men, and all wish him success wherever he may locate.  His successor, W. G. Atwell, comes to: our city well recommended — being a first-class druggist and possessing an interesting and progressive spirit.  Our people welcome himself and wife to our city, and all trust that they will find Watertown a pleasant and profitable place to reside.   WG



04 25       Meyne Drug Company.  A deal was closed last evening, whereby the Schempf Drug Store was sold to Mr. William H. Mayne of Ely, Minn., that gentleman to take possession today, the same having been sold by W. G. Atwell who bought the business a few months ago, but retained the old name . Hereafter the place of business will be known as the W. H. Meyne Drug Company.  Mr. Atwell will remain in the store about a week when he will go to his former home, Stevens Point, Wis., where he will remain during the summer and where he may engage in business . . . Mr. Mayne comes here a stranger, but The Leader ventures to say that he will soon possess many friends . . . He is an exceptionally pleasant person to meet and has all of the gentlemanly bearings . . . He is German by birth, a fact that will add materially in the success of his business.  He is a man of family and will soon remove to Watertown to become a permanent resident.   WL



10 23          Arthur Heide and bride surprised by store  

Last Monday evening the clerks of Schempf Bros. Co. surprised Arthur Heide and bride at their home in North Warren Street, where all passed a few hours very pleasantly.   WG


   1908, Main and Third, Schempf’s is on the left



02 19       Edward Schempf had singing part in sacred cantata at St. Paul’s Episcopal    WG

04 23       Robbery at store    WG

09 10       Ed Schempf and John Goodnetter returned from New York; selected fall and winter goods     WG

07 23       Fire at Store; Imitation Palm

At about 10:30 o’clock last Monday evening an alarm of fire was turned in from box 17, corner of Main and First streets, on account of an imitation palm being on fire in Schempf’s drug store.  Mr. Schempf had only been away from the store a short time, and being in the vicinity his attention was called to the fire and he went to the store and with the aid of others he removed the palm to the street where it was entirely burned.  There was no other damage.  Had the blaze not been so quickly discovered a bad fire might have been the result.  It is supposed the fire took place from someone throwing a lighted cigar stump into the palm.  WG


12 18      




   209-211 Main


12 30     Aaron Meade, for ten years past salesman in the white goods department of Schempf Bros. Co. store, has resigned, his position and on January 2nd will enter the employ of the J. M. Bostwick Co., Janesville, and will have charge of the white goods and linen department in their store.  Mr. Meade is one of Watertown's most popular residents, and our people will regret the departure of himself and wife from our city very much.   WG



03 16          Capital Stock Increased.  The capital stock of Schempf Bros. Co. store has been increased from $75,000 to $100,000, making it one of the strongest financial mercantile establishments in Wisconsin.  The firm now does an annual business of over $250,000 and the business of the firm is increasing from year to year.  Over 50 sales people are employed in this popular store and more sales people are being added from time to time.  The officers of the firm are John Schempf, president; Max G. Kusel, vice president; Edward L. Schempf, secretary treasurer.   WG


06 22       The employees of Schempf Bros. store enjoyed an outing at Silver Lake last Monday evening, making the trip on the Interurban railway.   WG



MUNSING UNDERWEAR, only the Schempf’s




06 19       Schempf Bros. Enlarging

Added story to the east end and 20 feet in the rear

Owing to a large increase in their business Schempf Bros. Co. have increased their capital from $100,000 to $150,000, and are adding another story to the east end of their building [former Sproesser bldg, 213 E Main] and also adding 20 more feet in the rear [same bldg], which will allow more room to display the large stock of goods carried by this popular dry goods firm.   WG   .


   Sponsoring ad in 1913 Orbit

01 09          Schempf Bros. Store Robbed.

Sometime during Sunday night thieves entered Schempf Bros. Co. store and stole about $600 worth of goods.  They entered through a rear second story window, reaching it by means of the fire escape.  They searched the entire three floors and helped themselves to the most valuable articles.  At 11 o'clock Sunday night, a member of the firm visited the store and nothing had been disturbed at that time.  Judging from the articles stolen it is supposed a lady had a hand in the robbery.


Following is a partial list of the articles taken:


1 lady's near seal coat (black) size 38, $75; 1 Russian mink coat (brown Marmot) size 38 or 40, $75; 1 natural mink neck scarf, $50; 2 natural mink neck scarfs ($40 each), $80; 1 natural mink neck scarf, $35; 3 skirts, estimate value $5-$6 each, $16.50; 3 dresses, estimate value $12, $36; several corsets and brassieres, $5; 1 man's size 44 suit, $13.50; 1 man's size 48 raccoon coat, $75; 1 man's dog-lined (black outside shell) coat, $28.50; 1 suit case, brown leather, $3.75; 1 handbag (man's) brown, $6; 1 telescope suit case, grey, $1; 1 man's fur cap, size 7 or 8, $6; 1 either black or brown, size 46, man's cardigan jacket, $3; 2 lockets (lady's) $3.50 each, $7; 1 set cuff links, 50c; 1 necklace, about $1.50; 16 pairs ladies cotton hose at 39c, $6.24; 5 pairs silk hose, $5; 1 pair silk hose, $3.50; 2 pair silk hose at $2.25, $4.50: 2 pair silk hose at $1.75, $3.50; 2 pair silk hose at $2.50, $5; 2 pair silk hose at $.75, $1.50; 1 pair silk hose, $1.75; 4 pair silk hose at 75c, $3.


On Wednesday three men were arrested on suspicion of being connected with the robbery.  They had new fur coats in their possession and on Monday tried to sell them to Moritz Kramer, agreeing to return on Wednesday to conclude the sale, and were arrested by Chief of Police Block when they put in their appearance.  One of them is also suspected of stealing copper wire from the electric road here some time ago.  The coats found in their possession were not the ones taken from Schempf Bros. Co.  They gave their names as George Goff, Chas. Miller and George Gilman.   WG


07 03          Have New Ramblers.  Edward L. Schempf and William Hartig have recently purchased two of the latest model Ramblers.   WG



03 26          Saturday evening the 50 employees of Schempf Bros. Co. left the store and assembled at the home of John Schempf, on Clyman Street, and had possession of his home upon his arrival, to his great surprise.  They met there to congratulate Mr. Schempf on his 70th birthday anniversary and in honor of the event presented him with a handsome loving cup, on which was inscribed: 


“A token of highest esteem presented to

Mr. John Schempf by his employees

on his 70th birthday, March 22, 1914.”


A fine supper was served all present and the guests tarried till after 12 o’clock midnight to make the affair a real birthday greeting.  Mr. Schempf is president of the Schempf Bros. Co. and has been in active business here for over 50 years.   WG


1914      Schempf Drug Co. Sells Out

04 23       Erwin Bitttner and Max Tetzlaff take over the old John Schempf drug store.

The Schempf Drug Co. has disposed of its business interests to Max Tetzlaff, son of Ex-Alderman Herman Tetzlaff, and Erwin J. Bittner, son of William Bittner.  Both young men have been engaged in the drug business in Racine a number of years and are well qualified to conduct a drug business.  Hosts of friends here wish them success.  John W. Schempf, the former proprietor of the business, may decide to locate in the west.   WG


12 24       Christmas Eve ad of 1914, Watertown Gazette




   Schempf Ad, 1915


01 28       Edward L. Schempf Purchased Home

Mrs. Florence McGolrick has disposed of her residence property at the corner of Sixth and Clyman streets [601 Clyman] to Edward L. Schempf, who has also purchased of C. H. Jacobi, the lot adjoining the McGolrick property on the west.  The consideration of the McGolrick sale was $3350.   WG


03 25       Robbery at Schempf Bros. Co. Store

Wednesday night of last week burglars entered Schempf Bros. Co. store by means of climbing the fire escape in the rear of the building and then getting down through the scuttle hole in the roof thereof.  Goods to the value of $150 to $200 were taken, including three suits of clothes, mittens, neckties, underwear, shirts, stockings, suspenders, cuff buttons, two grips, a fur coat and a rain coat.  Burned matches were scattered all over the rooms from where they took the goods, indicating that they piloted themselves in the darkness by lighted matches. 


Thursday afternoon, William Klatt, Nashota Street, while at play with other boys on the 7th ward dump at the old clay pit between Third Street and River Drive, ran onto two suitcases and a fur coat, hidden under an old box covered with straw.  The lad notified his parents and the police were communicated with by phone.  Chief of Police Block went to the scene and on opening the suitcases most of the things taken from Schempf Bros, were found in them including an old suit of clothes, one of the suits stolen evidently having been put on the thief who left the old suit.  The thieves were evidently not professionals, the supposition being that they stole the goods to replenish their own wardrobes.   WG


07 15          THE BARNUM OF THEM ALL

    Ad makes play on the Barnum & Bailey circus coming to Watertown on August 18, 1915.


12 11       CHRISTMAS AD commands page 1 of Weltburger





   We call this “your store” for the reason that you are at liberty to come and go as you please, whether for sight-seeing, rest, recreation or shopping.  It is not only a mercantile establishment to make money but to offer you every convenience in the way of the little luxuries that will come to you at no cost whatever.  Whenever it has been possible for us to install new fixtures that would help you in your shopping, and make more satisfactory to you every purchase, we have done so, and in our merchandise we have tried to give you always a little better value for your money than you expected.  As a result, ofttimes our advertisements may seem to you a little far-fetched, but we want to impress upon you that each and every item advertised by us is exactly as represented.  – Schempf Bros.


1920      SIGNAGE AND FLAG POLE, note regarding

   Believed to be of the winter of 1919-20.


If one follows the timeline of Schempf images one notices that the early block letter signage on the outside east wall was apparently converted over to script sometime between 1910 and 1920.  The script signage/logo is seen in this c.1920 image.  The flag would have had special significance during the years of WWI (1914-1918).  Another flag can be seen on a building in the next (100) block of E Main.


Most images seem to have a pole on the top of the Schempf building.  Unfortunately, most of the time the top of the pole is cropped, but I am assuming a flag pole normally graced the top of Schempfs and certainly would have been nicely seen from both ends of Main Street.  / Ken Riedl



John Schempf

1844 - 1920





One of Watertown’s Foremost Business Men

and Worthy Citizens


click to enlarge

WHS 006 965                       Undated

John Schempf, b. 1844 , d. 1920

John Schempf, son of George F. Schempf, nephew of George S. Schempf


In 1875 Mr. Schempf formed a partnership with his uncle, George S. Schempf, and

brother, the late Leonard Schempf, under the firm name of George S. Schempf & Co.,

which continued until the retirement of George Schempf, the business

being conducted by the brothers under the name of Schempf Bros. Co.,

of which Mr. Schempf was president at the time of his death.


Cross reference:  Chapter on John Schempf family  


1920      Schempf Bros. Employees, clothing (garments)

  Miss Ruby Elver, John Goodnetter, Miss Margaret Goodnetter, Miss Ruth Grant, Miss Anna Hoelzel, Miss Martha Hoelzel, Richard Krueger, Miss Selma Krueger, Henry Kulm, Mrs. Kyle, Miss Mary Link, Miss Edna Zimmerman.


1920s    Schempf Billboard




SCHEMPF FLOAT in Fourth of July Parade

   Schempf float in front of Schempf Store

1921 Ads



1924      75th ANNIVERSARY AD





The memory of 38 departed members of the Watertown Lodge of Elks will be honored at the annual memorial service of the order.  The Watertown Elks chorus, under the direction of Edward L. Schempf, will sing and Frank Bramer, violinist, and Mrs. Bramer, pianist, will render two selections.  The ritual will be in charge of the officers of the lodge, headed by F. W. Koenig, exalted ruler.   WDT



07 12       Edward Schempf attended Kading-Nelson Wedding  



   1936 Centennial Parade



After its closing the Montgomery Ward and the S.S. Kresge Companies took over the building, dividing it in two.



   Montgomery Ward, Kresge’s and Penney’s






The future occupancy of the store building at 209 Main Street, now occupied by the Montgomery Ward and Company, is still in doubt.  The Montgomery Ward concern made known last Oct. 19 that it would close its store here on Jan. 15 of this year and plans to that end are now being carried out.  So far no tenant has been announced for the store, once known as the Schempf Bros. Co. department store.  There have been many rumors concerning future occupancy of the four story building but all have proved to be rumors and nothing more.  One deal that was contemplated has not materialized.  Schempf Bros. operated the store for 88 years before it went out of business in 1936.  The doors closed on May 16 of that year.


Schempf Bros. Department store, known as “The Big Cash Store”, was the leading store in the city from the late 1840s to 1936.

After its closing the Montgomery Ward and the S.S. Kresge Companies took over the building, dividing it in two.



    Before Kresge’s bought Montgomery Ward (Schempfs) bldg.  City Assessor file image, c.1957



                 < Artist’s sketch

Enlargement and alterations to be completed in September.  The remodeled and enlarged Kresge’s will be more than double its original size.







  ’67 Mustang in pic



   Upper floors of Kresge's.  Part of an architectural display.




   1987 photo


Kline’s opened in Watertown in 1954 and expanded several times before locating at 205-209 E Main in October of 1983.


Kline's moved into the building now occupied by the S. S. Kresge variety store in early fall.  A major renovation project, including a new front and completely redone interior, is planned.  Kline's takes possession of the building at 207 East Main Street July 5 and will continue at its current location until the renovation is complete.


Its presence was made known by use of adjacent awnings and display windows.








The Watertown Plan Commission granted a conditional use permit to allow a retail gun dealership and a shooting range to open at 209 E. Main St.  The new business would be called Martz’ Muzzlez Range and Dealership.  In the initial phase, the business is planning on opening the firing range, retail space and a member’s lounge.  The building at 209 E. Main St. has been vacant since Calico Cottage moved out five years ago.  The company also plans on renovating the second floor to open an education center for gun safety and training classes, advanced laser ranges for police training and a gunsmith shop.  The company will also be purchasing and renovating 207 E. Main St. and will look to rent the space out to a separate business.  They also plan on renovating the third floors on both 207 and 209 E. Main streets to rent out as residential living spaces.   WDT




07 22 



WDTimes article:  This week’s announcement that the old Schempf Bros. Store building, for nearly a century a retail anchor store in Watertown, had been sold, is big news indeed.


11 21             





The Schempf Building and Main Street history celebrated    


06 26          SCHEMPF BUILDING, formal dedication of as an official WATERTOWN HISTORIC LANDMARK

               Image Portfolio 



WDTimes article  




Nearly all of its windows will be removed in the coming weeks.  The windows will be restored and rebuilt off-site under the requirements of preservation guidelines of the state and National Parks Service.  The restored windows will return in spring and the additional restoration of the sills and frames will continue.  The existing metal cladding will also be demolished in spring and a new period-appropriate storefront glass system will be installed.



[same date] Beginning Oct. 28, the building will play host to Bethesda Lutheran Communities’ Christmas store which features a selection of Christmas items at bargain prices including decorations, lights, ornaments, wreaths and artificial trees.  The temporary store also provides a chance for disabled youths to attain retail store operation experience.  The storefront windows, which won’t be replaced until spring, will feature decorations and lights, making the building a festive attraction for the holiday season.






  Image Portfolio    COMPLETE SET OF



   The Big Cash Store


   Now and then



Schempf’s shopping bag handle

Nephew John was originally proprietor of Schempf’s Rexall Drug Store, interior of store (WI His Soc link)

1909:  The singing of the Apollo Club was directed by Edward L. Schempf   WG

Harry Huth, druggist apprenticeship in the Schempf drug store.


This photo doesn’t seem to fit the timeline.  Need to check:

Schempf’s General Store, street scene  / Image needs to be relabeled; c.1903?

The image, which dates to 1886 (I believe) most likely shows the original facade.  By the 1890s or early 1900s--certainly by 1903, the building front was re-done and then later a third floor was added.  You have to begin with a clean slate before you can "pretty things up." - jannkster2





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History of Watertown, Wisconsin